Telehealth can make a difference in the struggle against opioid addiction. It’s wonderful to report instances when new technology makes a difference with serious health problems. The opioid epidemic is still going strong, according to the CDC. Last year we wrote about a program developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released newly-developed materials to explain how to employ telemedicine with medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD).
A telehealth program tested in eight communities in Minnesota showed significant progress in cutting patient pill use, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). In the first six months of the MDH Opioid Prevention Pilot Project, CHI St. Gabriel’s Family Medical Center in Little Falls reduced patient pill use by 724,000 pills per year and helped 670 patients taper off controlled substance prescriptions. Minnesota’s Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm stressed that the pilot’s focus on working locally to help patients rebuild their lives and overcome their opioid dependence is the key to its success. The program made such a difference in patient pill use that Minnesota Governor Tim Walz wants to expand the program quickly. He has proposed a budget that funds grants to up to 20 more communities.
Even if the state doesn’t approve the Governor ‘s budget, the substantial success of the MDH telehealth program bodes well for the state and the nation. No single program or approach will wipe out opioid addiction by itself, but anything that works adds to the arsenal of tools and weapons available to fight the tragic and costly war against narcotics addiction.